Computer Freezes but mouse still moves
June 30, 2008 8:25 AM   Subscribe

My PC has been crashing - I can move the mouse - but everything else is dead as a doornail. Apps don't respond, clock doesn't change etc. As though the display is frozen in time. Any ideas?
posted by zeoslap to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Restart your computer. After it passes the bios screen, press F8 and choose "Last good known configuration". Hopefully that will fix. If not, repeat the same thing and choose safe mode and uninstall and recent additions.
posted by special-k at 8:29 AM on June 30, 2008

gah. That should be
Hopefully that will fix it
and uninstall any recent additions
posted by special-k at 8:30 AM on June 30, 2008

Well the recent addition was an upgrade to a new motherboard/cpu combo, so uninstalling not really an option :) What I'm trying to do is definitively figure out what is causing the crash, instead of blindly swapping out bits hoping it goes away.
posted by zeoslap at 8:33 AM on June 30, 2008

It could be overheating. Did the cpu come with heatsink already attached, or did you do that yourself? One of the most common mistakes in mounting the heatsink to the cpu is to put too much thermal paste on, and just assume the pressure clips will even things out for you.
posted by nomisxid at 8:43 AM on June 30, 2008

Does this happen immediately upon boot, or does it take a while? What operating system? It could be heat related, or maybe drivers for the motherboard.

If Windows, try using Sysinternals Process Monitor to determine what is dying on you.
posted by stovenator at 8:46 AM on June 30, 2008

It's pretty random, and can go days without crashing then boom. The computer has been perfectly stable when it was hot outside and crashed this morning when it was freezing.

Does the fact that the mouse moves but everything else is dead point to the videocard/drivers? Or could it really just be anything?

I'll try out the process monitor.
posted by zeoslap at 8:57 AM on June 30, 2008

Overheating would cause the mouse-cursor to lock up too, only time it doesn't is if the cursor is hardware acceleratored, like in some games. I don't think Windows does that in their GUI though.

I'd put my money on the RAM, or some errant program that's forcing itself to use 100% of your CPU.

If you download the Memtest that will let you check the RAM. Usually if a new computer is acting weird (in my experience) it's the RAM. Reseat it using an eraser on the gold connectors to check for bad installation, if it's not that Memtest will catch any memory hardware errors.

If it's a program running 100%, it's unlikely to kill you're entire machine, but it might seem that way if it's got high enough priority-- soon as your computer is up and running, fire up task manager (or download Process Explorer) and organise the processes by CPU usage, when the computer locks up, see if anything hit 100%. Generally, if Caplock/Numlock work on your keyboard, your computer is still alive, just thinking far too hard. If Numlock doesn't toggle, it's entirely halted.

Also, you said you replaced the motherboard-- did you install Windows from scratch? If not, then that's likely the issue. Windows seriously doesn't play well with a motherboard replacement unless you're very careful to get the correct drivers in place, or use a universal restore tool like Acronis etc.
posted by Static Vagabond at 9:05 AM on June 30, 2008

I'm with Static Vagabond - I would also put my money on the RAM. I had exactly the same problem with my Thinkpad - turned out the motherboard could not support more than one DIMM at a time without freezing randomly (the mouse still worked). A BIOS upgrade fixed my problem -- try checking the Motherboard manufacturer's website.
Also try running a memory test diagnostic: Memtest or Microsoft's Memory Checker.
posted by Susurration at 9:19 AM on June 30, 2008

I did a repair install of XP when I upgraded my motherboard, I'll try memtest; pretty sure I ran it just after upgrading but will give it another shot. I reused the RAM when I upgraded but definitely possible I fried it in the process.

Is there anything similar to memtest that could be used to stress test the videocard?
posted by zeoslap at 9:35 AM on June 30, 2008

take a look at process lasso. If its programs taking up too memory this will help

o/w it could be the drivers for the new hardware, check from the manufacturers site if drivers have been updated
posted by radsqd at 10:19 AM on June 30, 2008

If the memory checks out okay then install Windows from scratch, backup your personal data, and do the full format the hard-disk option (hit escape when windows tells you it's found an existing copy on your drive when you're running the install CD).

The repair install is a bunch of crap usually, leaves loads of potential troubles lying around-- the amount of time you're going to be wasting fiddling with every which bit of Windows to try and find the solution would be more hassle then just reformatting/installing. You'll start with a fully blank canvas, which is never a bad thing.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:42 AM on June 30, 2008

When you put in a new motherboard, its pretty much a given that you need to wipe and reinstall.

If thats not an option, you can try removing all devices in Device manager and reinstalling them. Theres probably some hardware XP is looking for on your old motherboard that's causing trouble.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:01 AM on June 30, 2008

The motherboard may not like some of the peripherals.. Seems a lot like an IRQ conflict, but those are pretty rare nowadays. I sometimes get weird lock ups with certain USB devices on certain systems (mass storage devices, mostly, I think).. Pulling expansion cards (not the video card though) and disconnecting other peripherals is really the standard troubleshooting step here, even if it does seem a little random.

I reused the RAM when I upgraded but definitely possible I fried it in the process.

Doesn't have to be fried to cause problems. A new motherboard means a new memory controller, and new timing settings.. A fix may be as simple as relaxing the timings or reducing the memory clock a bit. Sometimes just swapping the order of the sticks is enough to fix up a memory error..
posted by Chuckles at 12:43 PM on June 30, 2008

The repair install is a bunch of crap usually, leaves loads of potential troubles lying around--

Well.. Repair installs usually work perfectly. Sometimes not, of course, and this could well be one of those times..
posted by Chuckles at 12:46 PM on June 30, 2008

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